DDN beat writer Hal McCoy offers his prescription for the Reds’ woes.

The Plan:
1. Boost payroll by $20M to $80M. Hal says, “Close to $40 million will arrive from television, radio and internet revenue, plus the sale of the Washington Nationals.”

I’ve never heard that number before, but it sounds like he’s talking about additional money above and beyond 2005. He also doesn’t say if that increased revenue is a one-time thing, or just for 2006. That’s important, since most contracts are multi-year. The funny thing is that after mentioning this number, Hal never again types the dollar sign – there’s no explanation of how he would spend the extra dough.

2. Keep Griffey (“a franchise player, a star, a marquee player for marketing purposes.”) I can’t won’t argue with this

3. “Left fielder? Adam Dunn. Sign him now to a five-year, $50 million deal. The guy is going to hit 40 or more home runs for the next 10 years, draw 100 walks, score 100 runs, drive in 100 runs.”

This is a very pleasant surprise. Though to his credit, Hal has knocked off most of the “strikeouts and sac flie” nonsense.

4. Keep Casey. Hal says that Dunn can’t handle first base, defensively, and claims that Casey doesn’t need to hit homers. “Home runs aren’t the problem,” says Hal, which is probably right. Then he goes off the ranch in defending Casey:

Casey is going to hit .300, he is going to hit doubles. What he did this year was hit .312 with nine homers, 75 runs and 58 RBIs while playing most of the season with a bad shoulder. And that bad shoulder most likely contributed to the 27 times he grounded into double plays.

What shoulder injury? Why does Casey’s shoulder only bother him when he has a crappy year? And are we supposed to be impressed that he had 58 RBI, “while playing with a bad shoulder”? The guy had 580 plate appearances – batting in the middle of the lineup – and only knocked in 8 more runs than Javier Valentin did in 250 PAs.

5. Trade Kearns and Pena. Kearns to the Cubs and Pena to the Nationals, ” to pry a couple of good pitchers away.”

This is a pretty interesting idea. It’s well-established that I don’t think O’Brien is capable of recognizing a good pitcher if he trips over one, so I’m wary of any trade for pitching. My real problem with this idea is how he solves the vacancy in right field…

6. “Put [Freel] in right field and leave him there. ” “He needs to be batting leadoff every day (37 steals last year).”

I still think, as I think Narron does, that Freel is best used as a Tony Phillips-type super-sub. Freel is brittle and/or reckless, and I don’t see him holding up for a full season in right field. Plus, that’s probably his worst position. His takes poor routes on fly balls(understandable, for a 2b), and his arm is both weak and inaccurate. That said, over 70 innings as a right fielder, Freel’s Range Factor and Zone Rating were better than any qualifier in the NL.

7. Re-sign Aurilia and put him at 2b. Hal thinks Aurilia would accept the mutual $2M option if he’s told he’ll be the regular second baseman.

Hal cites Aurilia’s team-leading batting average with runners in scoring position as a reason to bring him back, which is pointless. I’m torn on this one. Unlike the start of 2004, Aurilia wouldn’t be blocking anyone, and he did hit well in the second half. But I wasn’t a big fan of his bitching and moaning, either. It’s either Freel or Aurilia, I suppose.

8. Re-sign Joe Randa to play 3b. To be fair, Hal doesn’t exactly advocate this. He just kindof rips Encarnacion.

If defense wins games, third base remains a problem. Edwin Encarnacion may or may not be a future star, but he is only 22 and might have been rushed. His defense remains a slow work in progress. and while he showed power he hit only .238.

Wonder if Joe Randa would come back? He is a free agent after the season and his offense and defense are worth pursuing.

Hal just loves mediocre white character guys. Guess he didn’t notice that Randa batted .234 with runners in scoring position this year.

9. Re-sign LaRue, at whatever he costs.

Here’s the interesting thing – Hal goes on and on about how great the LaRue/Valentin tandem played, and how they’re a nice platoon match. Then he forgets that Valentin exists:

While LaRue is arbitration-eligible and will be expensive, alternatives are few. No catcher in the organization is close to major-league ready and trading for a good one is difficult.

Uh, what about Valentin? I’m assuming Hal thinks Valentin couldn’t handle an everyday job, and he may be right about that. But it’s very odd that he says that there’s no alternative to bringing LaRue back. I think it would be a bad idea, but they could certainly hand the job to Valentin.

10. Pitching – Hal starts by acknowledging that this is the toughest task, that “teams don’t trade top-shelf pitching,” and the Reds don’t have unlimited funds

10(a) Explore trading Milton. Hal’s very realistic on this one:

Can we talk a team with a big, big park into taking him in trade? But Milton was much better in his last three starts. Probably, we’re stuck with him and have to try to fix him and pray he is better next year.

10(b) Dump Ortiz and Keisler. Spend the money (about $5M on someone “better.”) No fight there. The problem’s in the execution.

10(c) Keep Harang.

10(d) Apparently, he’s not sold on Brandon Claussen (4.21 ERA): “showed good signs and awful signs,” and views Luke Hudson ( 6.38 ERA) as basically equivalent — neither earning a secure rotation spot.

10(e) No mention of Paul Wilson.

10(f) Sign Billy Wagner.

David Weathers filled in admirably in the mid-season, but got tired and wore out. Billy Wagner might be available and might be worth the investment. This team blew too many late leads.

This is insane. Why on earth would the Reds spend $9M for a guy who pitches 77 innings? That money would be much better spend on a starting pitcher.

3 Responses

  1. Billingsfan

    RISP is, in my opinion, a poor evaluator of talent. I can’t imagine hitters are different with runners on, though I do think pitchers are more careful, so that you see more walks (hence Dunn’s high OBP). But if I read McCoy right, he wants LaRue, Randa, Lopez, Aurelia, Casey, Dunn, Griffey, and Freel as the starting nine. Somehow, it don’t excite me. Seems we’ve about fully expored the potential of that combination. I do agree on trading Kearns while he still has some value left. Pena is a tougher call – will he ever hit consistently? Apparently McCoy thinks not.

  2. Glenn

    Trading both Kearns and Pena for pitching and putting Freel in RF full time is an intriguing prospect. I’m not sold on it yet but its worth thinking over.

  3. Ken

    I don’t think the Reds should ask Aurilia to return next year, because of his gripes and the fact that ’05 was a fluke year for him. His OPB and especially SLG were above all of his yearly marks since ’01. He’s 34 and doubtful to repeat his solid ’05 campaign. He would be a fine backup for EdE/Felipe/Freel, but he’s not content to do that.